What we know about the pilot in the Tupelo airplane incident

The pilot worked at the Tupelo Regional Airport, police said.

September 4, 2022, 6:22 PM

An incident allegedly involving a stolen plane and threats against a local Walmart ended in what one official described as the "best-case scenario," with no injuries and an inexperienced pilot safely landing the plane.

The saga unfolded over several hours in northeast Mississippi Saturday morning. Tupelo police warned residents around 6:30 a.m. local time that a pilot was flying over the city and "is threatening to intentionally crash" into a Walmart.

The pilot was identified by Tupelo police as 29-year-old Cory Wayne Patterson, an employee of Tupelo Aviation, which provides services like fueling at the Tupelo Regional Airport. He has worked for the company for the past 10 years and works as a lineman, fueling the aircraft, according to Tupelo Police Chief John Quaka.

Shortly after 5 a.m., Patterson is alleged to have stolen from the airport a Beechcraft King Air C-90 twin-engine aircraft, which he had access to as an employee of Tupelo Aviation, then called 911 at approximately 5:23 a.m. and made his threat against the local Walmart. Police evacuated the store and surrounding area, police said.

As the plane circled over Tupelo, police were able to talk to the pilot directly, according to Quaka. Negotiators were "able to convince him to not carry out this deed and to land the aircraft at Tupelo Airport," Quaka told reporters during a press briefing Saturday.

PHOTO: A pilot circles his King Air plane around Tupelo, Miss., Sept. 3, 2022, threatening to crash it into a store, according to local officials, in this still image taken from social media video.
A pilot circles his King Air plane around Tupelo, Miss., Sept. 3, 2022, threatening to crash it into a store, according to local officials, in this still image taken from social media video.
Colby Breazeale/local News X/tmx/Via Reuters

The stolen aircraft is a sophisticated and complicated one to fly, according to experts. Patterson has "some flight instruction," but did not have experience landing an aircraft and is not believed to be a licensed pilot, Quaka said. According to FAA records, Patterson only held a student pilot certificate, which was issued in 2013.

"A private pilot assisted us in helping this pilot complete this" landing, Quaka said.

Though upon final approach, for some unknown reason, the pilot aborted that landing and flew north, away from Tupelo, Quaka said.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., when the plane was close to running out of fuel, Patterson posted a message on Facebook that "in essence, it said goodbye," according to the chief.

Around 10:08 a.m., the Federal Aviation Administration lost radar contact with the aircraft. When a negotiator reestablished contact at 10:12 a.m., the pilot "confirmed he had landed in a field and was uninjured," Quaka said.

PHOTO: A stolen airplane rests in a field of soybeans after crash-landing near Ripley, Miss., Sept. 3, 2022.
A stolen airplane rests in a field of soybeans after crash-landing near Ripley, Miss., Sept. 3, 2022. Authorities say a man who stole a plane and flew it over Mississippi after threatening to crash it into a Walmart store faces charges of grand larceny and terroristic threats.
Nikki Boertman/AP

The plane landed in a soybean field in Ripley, Mississippi, located more than 40 miles north of Tupelo. The pilot was the only person on board, the FAA said.

Patterson was taken into custody and has been charged with grand larceny and making terroristic threats, Lee County Sheriff's Department online records show. A motive is not known at this time, Quaka said.

Patterson made an initial appearance in court Sunday and was ordered held without bond.

His public defender argued that bond should be allowed because Patterson doesn't have a criminal history, and he had the opportunity to crash the plane and didn't.

Municipal Court Judge Jay Weir disagreed and denied the bond. A preliminary court hearing date will be set in the next few weeks.

It is unclear if Patterson has an attorney. ABC News has left messages with the Tupelo Regional Airport and Tupelo Aviation.

PHOTO: Cory Patterson in a photo released by police.
Cory Patterson in a photo released by police.
Tupelo Police Department

Tupelo Mayor Todd Jordan said he has spoken with Patterson's family.

"I believe that after the initial threat, he did not want to hurt himself, or anyone else, and I believe that we had what you would think would be the best-case scenario," Jordan said during the briefing.

"No one was injured. The suspect is now in custody. He will get the help he needs, as far as whatever he's dealing with," he continued. "I can't thank all these organizations enough to bring him in safely."

ABC News' Matt Foster contributed to this report.

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